The last seven (or up to eight now) days in May have proven disastrous for Donald Trump and his presidency. Taken singly, over a period of time, it is possible that Trump might have been able to overcome them. But what just like a small leak in a dam that quickly erodes the integrity of the structure, so have the revelations of the last week eroded the integrity of the Trump presidency. In the words of the nursery rhyme “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”
Well, last week was nothing if not confusing. So much happened so quickly that it’s difficult to keep it all in order, and perspective.
Monday, May 8
That’s when former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, along with Obama-administration Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before the a Senate subcommittee. Even before her appearance, Donald Trump had to put in his two-cents worth via Twitter.
While some were labeling this as “witness intimidation” even if it were, it was possibly the world’s most pathetic attempt. Sally Yates showed by her testimony that neither Donald Trump, nor any man sitting on that Senate panel intimidated her in the least. Her brutal rebuttal of Senator Ted Cruz certainly proved that – and more.
In fact, they did ask Sally Yates that question and, as reported by the New York Times, she said she had never leaked classified information and was not the source of any reports about Mr. Flynn.
Then, when Director Clapper testified that, again as reported by the Times that “he was unaware of the investigation into the Trump campaign until James R. Comey, the FBI director, acknowledged it when testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on March 20” Donald Trump went all Trumpy on Twitter. In his magical thinking world, Trump took this to mean that he was vindicated, there had been no investigation, and even briefly twisted Clapper’s testimony on Trump’s Twitter cover portrait.
He also tweeted
Which, of course, is not what Director Clapper said at all. He simply acknowledged that he had no knowledge of the FBI investigation, which is not surprising as the FBI rarely notifies anyone of ongoing investigations. Clapper’s not knowing is a far cry from the “no evidence of collusion” that Trump trumpeted.
Tuesday, May 9 to Wednesday May 10
Donald Trump abruptly announces the firing of FBI Director James Comey. The last time a President had fired someone investigating criminal activity by the President himself was when Richard Nixon ordered the firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.
Trump’s letter firing Comey was on its surface questionable. He gave the reason for Comey’s termination as Comey’s failure to properly handle the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails last summer. He backed up his decision with two letters – one from Attorney General Sessions and Assistant Attorney General Rosenstein. He also included a line thanking Comey for telling him on three separate occasions that he (Trump) was not under investigation.
That Trump and his advisors were taken aback by the reaction to Comey’s dismissal was clearly demonstrated in Trump’s tweets.
Were Trump and his inner circle of advisors actually so naïve that they believed the Democrats, who were upset when Comey’s “October surprise” on the Clinton emails threatened her campaign, were not also elated when Director Comey revealed in sworn testimony before Congress that the FBI was investigating ties between Trump-Russia.
Despite the furor surrounding his firing of Director Comey, Trump had announced earlier that he would be meeting on the very next day (Wednesday) with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Levov. Speculation arose when only Russian media were allowed to cover this meeting. The White House Press Corps had been barred. But more about this later. Much, more about this later.
Thursday, May 11
The Russian news agency Tass, the one allowed at Trump’s meeting with the Russians on Wednesday, published photographs on Thursday, much to the dismay of the White House. Reports state that one official claimed that Russia “tricked us” by putting out the pictures.
Now why would they be upset? Because the photographs showed that Trump not only met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, as previously announced, but that the Russian Ambassador Kislyak was also present. Yes, that’s the same Russian Ambassador tied to General Michael Flynn and others in the Trump-Russia investigation.
In addition, the White House report on the meeting only referred to Trump and Lavrov – no mention was made of Kislyak’s being present. Putin made Trump look like a fool, or worse.
Thursday evening, following two days of both his administration’s written and spoken denials that Trump’s decision to fire Comey had nothing whatsoever to do with the FBI investigation of ties between the Trump campaign/administration and Russia, Donald does an interview on national television with NBC reporter Lester Holt, and blows the entire narrative out of the water.
As reported by CNN, during his interview with Holt, Trump threw everyone, including Vice President Pence, who had been touting the official line, under the bus.
“I was going to fire Comey – my decision,” Trump told Holt. “There is no good time to do it, by the way. I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.” Trump even admitted that he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he decided to fire Comey. He told Holt “And in fact when I decided to do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”
So much for the Clinton email excuse.
Friday, May 12
Before the White House and Republicans on the Hill could even begin to recover from Trump’s extraordinary interview the night before, Donald began the day with a Trump tweet storm of epic proportions.
“Perfect accuracy”? Nobody expects perfect accuracy from Press Secretaries when reporting on presidential decisions. But “reasonably close” would be nice. Of course they can’t keep up – because Trump is one of the most “active” liars to sit in the Oval Office.
And what is this about “tapes”? That has been a topic of discussion since Trump first mentioned them. Was he trying to intimidate Comey? And if there were any tapes, why doesn’t he just produce them? In fact, Democrat members of Congress, no doubt with visions of Watergate dancing in their heads, demanded just that.
Mother’s Day weekend passed fairly quietly, while the news and social media tried to absorb and analyze the events of the previous week. Other than Trump spending Mother’s Day playing golf at one of his properties, no doubt at Melania’s request, not much else happened, so we are not going to count those as part of our seven days.
Monday, May 15
If anything else happened that day, nobody remembers now after The Washington Post’s explosive revelation that Donald Trump, the president of the United States, “revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador.” Not only was it highly classified, but had been provided to U.S. intelligence by a third party and was not revealed even to our closest allies. It also placed lives in danger.
But Trump, either through ignorance or ego, decided to boast about it during his meeting with the Russians.
Frantic White House officials tried to contain the damage. Even the highly respected National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster was put in front of the press with a set of talking points trying to dispute the Post’s report. Sadly, his talking points didn’t address the issues raised by the Post, so his credibility was sacrificed for naught.
Despite his subordinates efforts to save him from himself, Trump once again took to Twitter to destroy any attempts to salvage his tattered image from the wreckage.
So Donald Trump, a man who swore an oath to “faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States” saw no problem with sharing secrets with our enemies.
Reports now indicate that the information he revealed came from our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel, and that they are furious. His revelations to Russia compromised an Israeli spy in ISIS and the seriousness of this can only be demonstrated by the fact that officials present at the meeting with the Russians were immediately contacting the C.I.A. and other IC agencies to notify the Israelis of the danger to their asset.
Tuesday, May 16
Just when the American people, along with the White House and Congress, thought things couldn’t get any worse – they did. Even Tom Clancy couldn’t write a novel this riveting.
Once again, it was The Washington Post releasing possibly the most damaging information to date against Donald Trump. Their story was quickly backed up by other media – the New York Times and CNN for example. Only Fox News seemed oblivious to the reports that FBI Director Comey had memos of every meeting and phone call he had with Trump, including one that occurred on February 14, 2017. The meeting had started with Trump, Comey, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Vice President Pence. Trump then asked Sessions and Pence to leave.
According to Comey’s contemporaneous notes (which are accepted as evidence in court) Trump told him “I hope you can let this go” in regard to the FBI investigation of General Michael Flynn. This is not one buddy talking to another over a beer about a dispute over property lines. This is a request by the President of the United States to the Director of the FBI to end an investigation. This could, by any reasonable interpretation, be construed as obstruction of justice. And “obstruction of justice” was one of the Articles of Impeachment against Richard Nixon.
Wednesday, May 17
As this article has tried to detail and explain the compounding series of blows to Donald Trump and his presidency over the last week and a half , it is still not clear what will happen next. Will Trump continue with his overseas trip as planned, or will Israel be dropped from the itinerary? Will he even go at all?
There are several options open to both Trump and Congress on how to proceed from here. The best course for the country and for Trump would be for him to quietly resign. That was the option that Richard Nixon took.
Articles of Impeachment could, and probably will, be filed in the House of Representatives, especially if the Comey memo is validated. There very well be other, and even more devastating memos to be revealed. This could result in a drawn out, partisan battle which would place any Republican plans for healthcare or tax reform on the back burner for months.
Vice President Pence, along with members of the Cabinet, could invoke Article 4 of the 25th Amendment declaring that Donald Trump is no longer fit to serve as President. It is possible that Trump would resign before that occurred.
What is clear now is that the Trump presidency has been severely wounded, probably mortally. Despite the loyalty of his die-hard followers, the ones Trump claimed would continue to support him even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue, that will not be enough to save him from the events that happened in May.
When someone like Senator John McCain says “we are now in Watergate territory” these are not words that should be taken lightly. Our country is now facing its worst crisis since Watergate. Should Trump decide to fight, then he might do irreparable harm, not only to himself and his family, but to our nation.
Let us all pray that our leaders will discern the right and proper course to take. Let us all pray for our country as well.
God bless America.